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Winners And Losers

Representative Llew Jones (R) of Conrad wants to build a wind farm on his property in eastern Montana. That’s all well and good. The Bugle applauds his support of renewable power. Tonbridge Power Inc., of Alberta, wants to build a transmission line between Lethbridge, Alberta and Great Falls that would service some of the new wind farms in Alberta and Montana. Again, probably a good thing to give local renewable power sources access to world markets. The Montana Alberta Transmission Line (MATL) has been held up on the Montana side of the border by permit appeals from a  few landowners, across whose land the line would run, using rights given them by Montana law and the Montana Constitution. Fortunately, Rep. Jones is a member of the Montana Legislature and in a position to stop this egregious assault on his rights to develop his property as he sees fit. Citizen Jones heads to the legislature armed with HB566, HB483, and HB529 aimed at gutting public participation in the DEQ permitting process. He also has a couple of backup bills to revise laws governing transmission lines and revise permitting laws that never get submitted.

HB566, which would change the purpose of the Montana Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) to a merely legislative advisory document, dies a quiet sears_ad1death. HB483, which requires bonding for Montana citizens to appeal a permit, limits the basis for appeals and shortens the time frame for appeals passed second reading in the Senate yesterday and is likely on it’s way to the Governors desk. HB529 changes the way permitting is handled on state lands, heads for second reading tomorrow and will probably sail through. Montana citizens loose many of the bulwarks of their constitutional guarantee of a clean and healthful environment.

Meanwhile, landowners and the power line developer successfully negotiate an agreement on their objections to the power line, clearing way for construction to begin in Montana. What was the basis for this heinous appeal?  The company said, “in general, the appeals involved placement of the poles and the use of diagonal crossings over farmland”. Simple problems easily handled by small design changes. The delay was a matter of a few months for an agreement to be worked out amicably. Now DEQ says, “What it means is there are no further holdups for construction of this line in the state of Montana,”. Taxes from the power line to Pondera county have been estimated to be between $1,038,970 on the low side too possibly as high as $1,182,684. Llew Jones can build his wind farm unimpeded by fussy environmental concerns. The Board of Environmental Review will dismiss the appeals and everybody will be happy. Well, everybody that is, except the citizens of Montana who were the only real losers in the whole process.

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